The Doctrine of Salvation
Topic: The Doctrine of Salvation
In this session, we look at the Doctrine of Salvation.
Speaker: Andrew Bunt
Andrew is a staff member at Kings Church Eastbourne, an author and a regular speaker on various thoelogy topics.
The Doctrine of Salvation
What is salvation?
Salvation and God
Salvation is a defining feature of the living God
• The ability to save is the distinguishing feature of the living God (Deut. 4:32-35; Isa. 43:11-12; Acts 4:11-
• False gods are often noted for their inability to save (Judg. 6:28-32; Isa. 44:17; 46:1-2, 6-7; Jer. 2:26-28).
• Salvation is so core to what God does that he can be said to be salvation (Exod. 15:2; Deut. 32:15; Ps.
18:2, 46; 42:5).
Salvation flows from and reveals God’s character
• God saves because of who he is, not because of who we are.
• Because God is just/righteous it is necessary that he judge and punish sin (Gen. 18:25; Deut. 32:4).
• No comparable obligation for God to save, and yet he saves because he is ‘a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity
of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation’ (Exod.
34:6-7; Neh. 9:17; Joel 2:12-13).
• Salvation is always rooted in who God is and what he does, never in who we are or what we do (Deut. 7:6-
11; Eph. 2:4-10; 1 Pet. 1:3).
• We most clearly see what God is like in his acts of salvation (John 1:14; Heb. 1:1-4; 1 John 4:8-10).
Salvation is ultimately for God’s glory
• The revelation of God’s heart and character in salvation is designed to bring glory to God (Exod.7:5; 14:4,
17; 1 Kings 8:59-60; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).
Salvation and the Bible’s story
• The Bible’s big story is the story of how God saves from sin and saves for relationship with himself.
• Creation (Gen. 1-2) – The blueprint. How things are meant to be: God’s people, in God’s place, under
God’s rule and blessing.
• Fall (Gen. 3) – Humans rebel against God. Judgement follows. No longer God’s people, in God’s place or
under God’s rule and blessing. Need saving from punishment and restoration to relationship.
• Abraham (Gen. 12-25) – God makes promises in a covenant. Abraham and his descendants will be God’s
people, in God’s place, under his rule and blessing. Saved from punishment and restored to relationship.
They will also be a blessing – bringing salvation – to the nations.
(Joshua – 2 Chronicles) – History of Israel shows the problem of the Exodus salvation: it
hadn’t changed sinful hearts. Humans prove unable to live God’s way.
• Exile and Prophets (Isaiah-Malachi) – God judges Israel’s unfaithfulness by allowing the Exile. But promises
to Abraham still stand. God has promised to save. Prophets reaffirm promises of salvation, speak of total
forgiveness, new hears, outpouring of the Holy Spirit and a new covenant.
• Jesus (Matthew-John) – Name means ‘God saves’ Comes to enact God’s salvation. Takes up and
completes mission of Israel. Lives in perfect obedience to God and dies as a substitute for all people.
• Church Age (Acts-Revelation) – Believers are united to Christ and so receive all his blessings. Total
salvation from sin and into relationship with God.
• Jesus’ return (Revelation) – Jesus returns to bring ultimate consummation of salvation: sin completely
destroyed, God’s people restored to perfect relationship with him. God’s people, in God’s place, under
God’s rule and blessing.
Salvation and the individual
• How does an individual come to experience salvation?
• Ordo salutis or ‘order of salvation’ is a logical sequence of steps in the process of salvation. Form of the
idea found in Romans 8:29-30.
• God elects some people to be saved, not based on anything in them, but based on his free choice.
• NT evidence:
– Romans 9, 11
– Ephesians 1:4-6
– 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
– Acts 13:48
– 1 Peter 1:1
– Revelation 13:7-8
• Election destroys human free will.
– Extent of human freedom must be dictated by Scripture, not our own reasoning.
– Scripture teaches that we make real choices, with real effects, for which we are morally
responsible, but also that God is behind every choice that is made.
– But God never causes us to do what we do not want to do. He shapes and works through our
• Election is based on God’s foreknowledge of our faith.
– But God’s foreknowing is of people, not a decision (Rom. 8:29; 11:2).
– Verb ‘to know’ often has a relational sense in the Bible (e.g. Gen. 4:1, 25; Amos 3:2; 1 Cor. 8:3).
Foreknowledge is relational. It is about God setting his love on people in advance.
• The Bible says that God desires for all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).
– All agree that God could save everyone but doesn’t. What best explains why God’s expressed will
doesn’t get fulfilled? To preserve human free will? To glorify himself? Latter better fits biblical
picture (e.g. Rom. 9:17, 22-23).
– Theologians distinguish between God’s revealed will (close up) and his secret will (wide angle).
What about reprobation?
• Does God choose some people to not be saved? Scripture indicates that God has ordained for some not
to be saved, but never speaks of him choosing people not to be saved in the same way that he chooses
the elect for salvation.
• NT evidence:
– Romans 9:17-18, 22
– Romans 11:7
– 1 Peter 2:8
– Jude 4
• Reprobation is presented differently to election:
– Salvation is based on God’s actions. Condemnation is based on human actions.
– There is never rejoicing over reprobation as there is over election.
– God does not choose people for condemnation in the same way he chooses for salvation.
How should we view election?
• A reason to worship (Eph. 1:5-6, 11-12; 1 Thess. 1:2, 4).
• A reason to have assurance (Rom. 8:28-29).
• A reason to be active in mission (Acts 18:9-11; 2 Tim. 2:10).
• God works in someone’s heart as they hear the gospel such that they respond in repentance and faith.
• In Romans 8:29, all who are predestined and called and all who are called are justified, so the call must
guarantee a heart response, not just invite one.
• Therefore distinguish:
– General call – Gospel proclaimed and heard.
– Effectual call – Gospel proclaimed and heard and comes in power to work in a heart through the
Holy Spirit leading to a response.
• NT evidence:
– Acts 16:14
– John 6:44
– 1 Corinthians 1:9
– 2 Thessalonians 2:14
• God causes a person to be born again, receiving new life, such that they will turn to God for salvation.
• Until God acts we are dead in our sins and so unable to respond to him (Eph. 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 1:18). Before
we can respond, God must give us new life (Eph. 2:4-5).
• Seen most clearly in Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus in John 3:1-8. To enter the kingdom of heaven, one
needs to be born again/from above (wordplay). It is not enough to be descended from Abraham, or to
recognise that Jesus is a teacher sent by God. Rebirth comes by the Spirit who, like the wind, moves
where he wishes and is only observable in the impact he makes.
Implications of effectual calling and regeneration
• Salvation is entirely dependent on God – If he doesn’t first act, nothing else can follow.
• We can have security – If we truly respond to the gospel, we can know that God chose us (1 Thess. 1:4-5),
called us and will therefore lead us through to glorification.
• We can have confidence in mission – As we preach the gospel, God will sometimes use it to change
hearts. That’s what only God can do, so all we have to do is proclaim the gospel and leave the rest to him.
• Our willing response to the gospel in repentance and faith.
• Effectual call and regeneration lead to a willing response of repentance and faith. Repentance and faith
are the right and necessary response to the gospel (Mark 1:15).
• Three elements, each of which is necessary for true repentance:
– Thinking: Intellection recognition of sin and its sinfulness.
– Feeling: Sorrow over and a distaste for sin.
– Action: Active turning away from sin.
• Repentance can happen in a moment, but external evidence is not always immediate. It will, however,
follow if there is true repentance.
• Three elements:
– Thinking: Acknowledgement of the truth of the gospel and God’s standards. Trust in God’s
promise to save and accept.
– Feeling: A heart orientated towards God.
– Action: Active choice to seek to live God’s way.
• Biblical faith best understood as trust. We trust in Jesus to save us as he has said he will.
• God declares that we are in a right legal standing before him (i.e. we are righteous); He sees us and treats
us as if we have done everything we should have done and nothing we should not have done. This is all
possible because of what Christ has done.
• Note that English confuses things. One Greek word group (dikai-) is translated with two English word
groups (just- and right-).
Paul’s word (Greek), dikaiosunē – Noun (thing)
English words, Justification, Righteousness
Paul’s word (Greek) dikaios – Adjective (descriptor)
English words, Just, Righteous
Paul’s word (Greek), dikaioō – Verb (action)
English word, To justify
• Controversial doctrine with differing views:
– Protestant: Justification is about a legal declaration where God declares sinners to be in a right
legal position before him (i.e. righteous) based on the work of Christ.
– Roman Catholic: Justification is about the infusion of righteousness which empowers someone to
live an increasingly righteous life. If not sufficiently righteous by death process continues in
– New Perspective on Paul: Justification is about membership of God’s covenant people. Before
Christ, works of the law were the markers of being ‘in’, but now faith in Christ in the marker.
• Biblical language of justification shows the concept is legal, so the protestant reading is most faithful to
the Bible (e.g. Luke 7:29; Rom. 8:1, 33-34).
• Proverbs 17:15 is a key verse: ‘He who justifies (i.e. makes righteous; dikaioō) the wicked and he who
condemns the righteous (dikaios) are both alike an abomination to the LORD.’
– Clearly about a legal declaration. How a human judge should act.
– But in the gospel God justifies the wicked (Rom. 4:5)!? Key part of Romans 1-3 is explaining how
God can justify sinners and yet still be righteous himself. The answer is: Jesus! His atoning death
means that God’s action is not a miscarriage of justice (Rom. 3:24-26).
• What about James 2:24? (‘You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.’)
– Context: James talking about faith without works being dead.
– Meaning of ‘to justify’ here is ‘to show to be righteous’ (cf. v.18 ‘I will show you my faith by my
works’; Luke 10:29). Making a different point to Paul.
• God adopts us as his children so that we can be secure in his love and become his heirs.
• Justification is the most fundamental aspect of salvation, but adoption is the most glorious.
• All Christians are adopted as God’s children (John 1:12; Rom. 8:14; 1 Pet. 1:14; 1 John 3:1).
• Adoption brings many blessings and responsibilities. Four outlined in Romans 8:14-17:
– Freedom from fear (of condemnation).
– Intimacy with God.
– Becoming heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.
– Suffering (but in sure and certain knowledge that God always loves us).
Bruce Ware, ‘The Doctrine of Salvation’ (Four lectures)
Chris Wright, Salvation Belongs to our God (IVP, 2008)
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (IVP, 1994), chapters 32-37
On justification in Paul…
Stephen Westerholm, Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme (Eerdmans, 2013)